Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Tower’s ‘lunch lady’ settles pay dispute with ISD 2142

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 9/4/19

REGIONAL— The longtime head lunch lady at the Tower School has reached a settlement agreement with the St. Louis County School District that ends a lawsuit filed in June over allegations that the …

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Tower’s ‘lunch lady’ settles pay dispute with ISD 2142

Posted

REGIONAL— The longtime head lunch lady at the Tower School has reached a settlement agreement with the St. Louis County School District that ends a lawsuit filed in June over allegations that the district systematically paid her less than she was owed.

Under the agreement, Marilyn Turnbull, of Tower, will receive $12,500 in a one-time lump sum settlement, $1,975 of which will go to the Halunen Law Firm, which represented her in the case. Turnbull agrees to drop any further claims for lost income stemming from the school district’s refusal to classify her as a head cook despite the fact that she served as the school’s only cook for years. It was Turnbull’s food handler’s license that, for years, allowed the school district to continue to operate the food service in Tower. Despite that, the district had classified her as an assistant cook, which pays two dollars less per hour than a head cook. The lower designation had resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in lost income for Turnbull, who has lived alone since her husband Ballard died 13 years ago.

Turnbull’s struggle for appropriate compensation was highlighted in a Timberjay report last November.

Under the settlement, Turnbull agrees to retire from her employment with the school district effective Aug. 9 and will not seek any future employment with the district. The agreement does not affect any retirement benefits that Turnbull is eligible to receive under her union contract. The district’s food service workers are currently represented by the Teamsters Local 346.

The school district acknowledges no wrongdoing in the case and contends the settlement was the most economical decision going forward. “While the district strongly disputed the claims raised in the lawsuit and was prepared to defend itself, the district and its insurance company determined that the cost of quickly settling the dispute for a minor sum outweighed the anticipated costs of prolonged litigation,” Superintendent Reggie Engebritson said in a statement on the settlement.  “The district’s insurance company will be making the payments outlined in the agreement, and the district has not admitted to any wrongdoing and specifically denies that it discriminated against Ms. Turnbull at any point during her employment with the district.  We are happy to put this matter behind us, and as always, the district remains committed to fostering a workplace that is free from discrimination for all of its employees and providing the best possible education for our students.”

Turnbull said the settlement offer was less than she had expected, but that she was happy to have the matter behind her. “I’m really unhappy about the whole ordeal,” she said.

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Shaking my head

Congratulations Marilyn! Too little too late though. Hoping your retirement was not forced on you. Enjoy your freedom.

Wednesday, September 4